Syria’s diabolic lesson for Iran • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Syria’s diabolic lesson for Iran



Wonder what might happen after we sign a nuke deal with Iran?

Take a look at Syria, where Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is up to his old tricks — using chemical weapons despite his “deal” to get rid of them. And no one seems to care. Why would Iran be any different?

Last week, Syrian army helicopters dropped barrels filled with chlorine on a small Syrian village, killing six. A group backed by Western powers, the Syrian National Coalition, demanded urgent action.

“Videos show medics rushing to treat choking victims, and children in burial shrouds foaming from the mouth,” the SNC wrote the UN Security Council, insisting it enforce a no-fly zone over Syria to stop future chemical attacks.

The council (and everyone else) yawned.

Assad, of course, knew exactly what he was doing. Only days earlier, all 15 members of the council condemned chlorine use in Syria.

British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant warned that “if we receive further credible reports of use of chlorine as a weapon, then this council will take action.” Secretary of State John Kerry huffed that the United States was “very concerned.” Assad must have been quivering in his sandals.

See, Assad knows what President Obama cares most about: “deals.” Getting the Syrian leader to sign a treaty that bans the use of chemical warfare is, in fact, the singular success Obama can point to in a miserable war that just marked its fourth anniversary.

The war, by the way, has now exacted more than 210,000 deaths, and left millions homeless. As former CIA chief David Petraeus says, it’s created a Mideast “Chernobyl” that spews “radioactive instability and extremist ideology over the entire region.”

America stood aside as the horrors unfolded, with just one exception — Obama’s “red line”: No chemical weapons. Or else.

Only, even that proved an idle threat. Instead, Russia concocted a “deal” that would let Obama off the hook. Assad agreed to remove all chemical agents and destroy all labs under the UN’s watchful eye.

Ta-da: Obama’s “red line” had been defended, without a shot fired. Military intervention was averted. Diplomacy had won out. A specialized UN agency would verify it all.

It was all grand — except that Assad continues to use chemical weapons. And now, here we go again: Kerry appears on the verge of a deal with Assad’s senior partner, Iran, that will rely on the same sort of good faith, compliance and verification mechanisms.

To see why this won’t work, look again at the Syrian deal: Assad was indeed forced to remove and destroy his chemical agents and production facilities, and that was touted as a victory.

But our UN ambassador, Samantha Power, now says “significant discrepancies remain with Syria’s declaration,” hinting at problems with our ability to verify Assad’s compliance.

Indeed, Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN-affiliated atomic agency, indicated that verifying Tehran’s compliance may face similar problems, telling PBS on Monday that despite past agreements the agency can’t yet say Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

Assad also found a loophole that allows him to use his favorite weapon without violating the deal: chlorine. Unlike, say, sarin, the possession of chlorine is perfectly legal: It’s used in swimming pools, after all.

Fact is, chemical warfare has always played a major role in the Syrian army’s war doctrine. So now Assad’s choppers increasingly drop barrels full of chlorine on his enemies. And now the world’s attention is elsewhere.

Indeed, Assad is now our tacit ally in the war against ISIS, so why bug him about some violations of his chemical deal?

Yes, Kerry did denounce last week’s chemical attack. But of far more importance to him were his meetings with Iranian officials in Switzerland, where he’s hoping to conclude a nuclear deal as early as this week. Any action against Iran’s ally, Assad, may complicate Kerry’s delicate negotiations.

It’s certainly cause to worry. Seeing how easy it was for Assad to wave off the deal he’d made with America should be a lesson about what we can expect of Iran’s behavior. And seeing Assad’s victims offers a taste of the consequences.